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Glimpse at the history of racing fashion

Fashions on the Field is a pinnacle event of Melbourne Cup week and the spring Racing Carnival with style and glamour often steering the news away from horses.

Men and women alike have been drawn to the race’s frivolities since the 19th century, each year upping the stakes and donning some of the year’s most unique and luxurious styles.

From Hollywood celebrities Paris and Nicky Hilton to Royals Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the event gives racegoers the opportunity to rub shoulders with the stars in their very best attire.

The Victorian Racing Club committee launched the first Fashions on the Field in 1962 in attempt to woo more women to the races during a time of dwindling crowd attendance.

The official Sydney Fashions on the Field started in 1983, despite being a component of the races for several years.

Since then, racegoers have became just as interested in the contest of fashions on the lawn as they are in watching the horses compete on the turf .

While fashions have come and gone over the years from controversial dresses hemmed five inches above the knees, to pant-suits teamed with wide-brimmed hats and feathers, the event continues to capture the imagination of the public.

Here is a glimpse at some of the most controversial and memorable outfits spotted at Fashions on the Field across Sydney and Melbourne.

1960: A day on the turf in the 60s was a defining time for Australian fashion, with the cut, fabric, colour and style of outfits strongly influenced by European and British trends. Among the fleet of woman sporting designer tailored suits, was Sydney socialite Betty Rose McInerney, who made a name for herself at the races, often spotted wearing wide brim hats, matching gloves and dazzling earings.

1965: Model Jean Shrimpton caused jaws to drop when she arrived at the races wearing a high-hemmed white mini dress with no stockings, hat or gloves. The miniskirt’s zenith was the first of a many challenging race-wear trends, with pant suits and looser frocks soon to make headlines. Shrimpton’s Melbourne Ladies’ Day outfit, a white long sleave suit jacket and skirt, was slightly more conservative.

1970: The 70’s were all about big earings and ruffled bows on hats. Fashion model Angela Belle McSweeney, known for introducing and developing Fashions on the Field in NSW, was a regular racegoer in the 70s and often pictured wearing oversized blazers, checked bows on hats and thick hoop earings.

1985: Prince Charles and wife Princess Diana were special guests at the Melbourne Cup. Princess Diana may have impressed racegoers with her stylish Bruce Oldfield black and white suit and matching monochrome hat but it was her sheer tights that caught eyes. The stockings had a seam running down the back of her legs and a delicate bow just above her shoes.

1990: Silky minimalist dress silhouettes and arty accessories fit like a puzzle in the 90s. Photographer John Lindsay’s iconic photo of a trio of women donning ruffled feathers, mini skirts and shiny metallic stockings captured the era of 90s confidence in a nutshell. It was all about fitted attire and big head-wear in this decade.

1996: Despite the strict race-code dress manual racegoers pushed the boundaries of dressy daywear, showing off more skin for the sun to kiss. The Randwick campaign shoot gave in to the era’s frivolousness trends, capturing models frolicking on the turf in colourful bralettes only just covered by a matching blazer and suit pants. The bare-skinned attired recently re-surfaced when trainer Gai Waterhouse arrived at Epsom Day wearing a bright red blazer with a black lace bralette peeping through.

2003: The new millennium brought with it a new generation of race fashion featuring delicate, spaghetti-strapped dresses and taking short skirts to new heights. Paris and sister Nicky Hilton stole headlines at the Melbourne Cup after the duo rocked up to Flemington racecourse in brief attire. Paris wore a mid-drift floral halter-neck top with a low riding skirt while sister Nicky, slightly more conservative, wore a pink silk dress hemmed with lace.

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